Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Watch Out For Blowout
Exposures In All The Bright Places • Traveling With Photo Gear • Fine-Art Prints, Or NotFine-Art Prints, Or Not
Q What, exactly, is a "fine-art" print, and how is it distinguishable from non-fine art prints?
Via the Internet
A It’s easier to answer your second question first. Practically, non-fine-art prints have a short physical and cultural life span due to the lack of quality in their production and the absence of enduring content. They’re not long-term investments.
Generally, fine art is created for aesthetic appreciation rather than for commercial use, and presented appropriately for private or gallery placement. Some photographers classify all their work as "fine art," meaning that they’re seeking to capture exceptionally high-quality images of extraordinary content and technical execution. These days, I find that some "fine-art" photographers remain immersed in older traditional forms of image capture and darkroom techniques; sometimes they’re more defined by the process than by the images they create. But I would include in the "fine-art" photography community those who use the medium to accomplish an artistic vision, and in the digital age, this has become both more common and more exciting because of the versatility and creativity offered by new capture and processing technologies.
This might seem to put the definition of "fine-art photography" squarely in the realm of the artist’s intent. But that doesn’t quite fit with the way most photographers, especially outdoor and nature photographers, approach their subjects. A fine-art nature print starts with an aesthetically compelling capture that may well have commercial value, but the fine-art designation is realized with a museum-worthy and archivally sound presentation. This means professional, archival-quality papers, long-lasting pigment inks and a technically superb print.
Current professional photographic printing technology has revolutionized the concept of photography as a fine-art investment. Pigment prints will last 100 years on display! Knowing this, you should beware of making significant investments in photographic fine-art prints created with media other than pigment inks. While older processes may create beautiful images for the gallery, they don’t last sufficiently long on display to justify their relatively high costs, in my opinion—particularly when better technology is readily available to all serious photographers.
Ansel Adams had the answer to this figured out. He called the negative "the score" (the sheet music) and the print "the performance." And a good percentage of his performances certainly rose to the quality of "fine-art" symphonies. But ultimately, the determination of whether a photographic print is "fine art" lies in the aspiration of its creator and the perception of the beholder.
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